Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Sons are Gone; Now the Blood Feud Begins

There is no doubt that the deaths of his two sons will be a devastating blow to Saddam Hussein, but those who hope that their loss will leave him a broken man are likely to be disappointed.

He’ll probably release another audiotape in the next few days saying that he has sacrificed his two sons for the struggle and calling on other Iraqis to be prepared to do the same, one veteran of the Iraqi opposition observed.

What was already a life-and-death struggle for Hussein is now also a blood feud.

Even so, his grief must be extreme. Hussein has always been a family man. One of the very few jokes known to have been coined by the ex-dictator of Iraq concerns the late Uday, who, so Hussein used to quip, had been an “activist” from an early age. This is in reference to the time in 1964 when Hussein was in jail and his wife, Sajida Khairallah Telfah, would bring baby Uday for a visit–with secret messages from Hussein’s fellow Baathist conspirators concealed in Uday’s nappies.

Later, when he was cleaving his way to absolute power, Hussein’s primary instruments were close family members–his half-brothers Barzan, Watban and Sabawi, as well as his uncle, Khairallah Telfah, and cousin Adnan. Son-in-law Hussein Kamel Majid emerged as a central pillar of the regime in the 1980s, as did another member of Hussein’s Majid relatives, Ali Hassan al Majid.

It was a classic example of tribal rule.

Proximity to the throne through blood ties, however, was no guarantee of job security. Hussein’s brothers lost their influence–all had been prominent in the repressive security services–after their mother died in 1982. Adnan Khairallah played a vital role as minister of defense in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s–a little too successfully, perhaps, given that he died soon after the cease-fire in a mysterious helicopter crash. Hussein Kamel Majid was executed for his temporary defection to Jordan in 1995.

In the dangerous quicksand of court politics under Saddam Hussein, only his sons were above the law. Others might be punished for particularly egregious crimes, such as the occasion when the family was lined up to watch cousin Luai Khairallah have his arm broken by Hussein for assaulting his school teacher. But Uday and Qusay appear to have enjoyed total impunity. (Hussein did allegedly consider harshly punishing Uday for murdering his food taster in 1988, but soon relented.) They were the only people whom he felt he could totally and unreservedly trust, and now he has lost them.

Further, the manner of their death has ominous implications for the hunted Iraqi leader, given that they apparently were betrayed by their Mosul hosts. The opulence of Nawaf Zaidan’s villa, at least before it was riddled with American gunfire, suggests that he did well under the old regime, but that was evidently no bar to his vastly increasing his fortune by exchanging his guests for the immense reward on offer.

It is also worth noting that the hiding place selected by the two fugitives was hardly obscure, suggesting that the family is not exactly melting into the population.

Abid Hamid Mahmud Tikriti, Hussein’s private secretary, could think of no more imaginative place to hide than in one of his many residences, where he was duly apprehended. If Hussein is lurking in a similar bolt hole, then it seems entirely possible that he will be unearthed in the near future.

Hardly less ominous for Hussein is the rattle of celebratory gunfire in Baghdad at the news of his sons’ deaths. He may never have labored under the illusion that the people of Iraq love him, but the fact that Baghdadis at least should express such jubilation at the passing of Uday and Qusay indicates that there is little possibility of a groundswell of support in Iraq for a Hussein regime restoration.

The fact that those guns may tomorrow be turned on the U.S. occupation forces under the inspiration of Iraqi nationalism or Islamic fervor is of little use or consolation to him.

Thus Hussein’s options are ever more limited. All he really has left is his image of himself as the dauntless Arab fighter who will never back away from a duel. Now that almost everything he once possessed, including his family, is gone, he is once again a hunted fugitive, just as he was in the winter of 1959 after his failed attempt to assassinate the then-leader of Iraq.

Under his subsequent rule, the story of that flight, complete with happy ending, became the stuff of legend, books and a movie.

This time there is little chance of a happy ending. All he can hope for is the legend.

More articles by:

Andrew Cockburn is the Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine.  An Irishman, he has covered national security topics in this country for many years.  In addition to publishing numerous books, he co-produced the 1997 feature film The Peacemaker and the 2009 documentary on the financial crisis American Casino.  His latest book is Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins (Henry Holt).

October 22, 2018
Henry Giroux
Neoliberalism in the Age of Pedagogical Terrorism
Melvin Goodman
Washington’s Latest Cold War Maneuver: Pulling Out of the INF
David Mattson
Basket of Deplorables Revisited: Grizzly Bears at the Mercy of Wyoming
Michelle Renee Matisons
Hurricane War Zone Further Immiserates Florida Panhandle, Panama City
Tom Gill
A Storm is Brewing in Europe: Italy and Its Public Finances Are at the Center of It
Christopher Brauchli
The Liars’ Bench
Gary Leupp
Will Trump Split the World by Endorsing a Bold-Faced Lie?
Michael Howard
The New York Times’ Animal Cruelty Fetish
Alice Slater
Time Out for Nukes!
Geoff Dutton
Yes, Virginia, There are Conspiracies—I Think
Daniel Warner
Davos in the Desert: To Attend or Not, That is Not the Question
Priti Gulati Cox – Stan Cox
Mothers of Exiles: For Many, the Child-Separation Ordeal May Never End
Manuel E. Yepe
Pence v. China: Cold War 2.0 May Have Just Begun
Raouf Halaby
Of Pith Helmets and Sartorial Colonialism
Dan Carey
Aspirational Goals  
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail